The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

THANKS, BUT I’D RATHER BE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS!

This is the end, good-bye from the 2004 Official Voice of the Dolfan. It’s been a wonderful and exciting time for me, my wife and our recently turned eight-year-old son. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed writing the columns this season. I not only wrote them during the weeks of the contest, but I wrote them to distribute to friends and family during the bye week and every other week, contest or not. I’ll do the same next year, contest or not. That’s how much I have really enjoyed it.

Having enjoyed it so much, I need to pay special thanks to my wife and son for urging me to enter, cheering me on during the contest and being so proud along the way. It was my lovely wife who first came to me about the contest, saying, “Honey, I just saw this thing about a Dolphins’ contest and you have to enter. With your writing ability and with your passion for and knowledge about the Dolphins, it has your name written on it.” My first reaction was that although it sounded interesting, I just didn’t have the time between being a devoted husband, a very involved father and the managing partner of my law firm. She kept after me to do it. However, when my son overheard her and pleaded with me to do it, I was a goner. As soon as I said I would do it, my still seven-year-old son ran around the house yelling, “We’re going to be famous!” Having won 3 of 5 weekly contests on the way to winning the grand prize, I guess my wife knew that this contest was well suited to my talents; and my son, well, he, too, has a lot of faith in Dad. Thank you Mom, thank you Son!

Also, many thanks to all who have enjoyed my columns enough to vote for me and for those friends, acquaintances, family members and others who encouraged me with words of praise for my columns throughout this season. For any readers who would like to receive future columns or copies of all 17 columns from this season, please let me know by e-mail (rpoltorack@msn.com) and I shall gladly add you to my personal distribution list.

And now, for my final words about the 2004 Dolphins . . . .

In many ways, Sunday’s season finale 30-23 loss to the Ravens had the appearance of the first pre-season game for the 2005 season. First, the game was essentially meaningless. Second, Rosenfels saw action. Third, each and every player was auditioning for a spot on Nick Saban’s 2005 roster that will undoubtedly reflect many personnel changes.

For Sage Rosenfels, Sunday was pretty much downhill after the first play from scrimmage when he threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Chris Chambers. That play caught the Ravens by surprise and had the looks of a play that lame-duck Coach Bates pulled out of his sleeve and had the team practicing all week. However, the 7-0 lead produced by that pass did not last long as the Ravens drove the ball on their first possession for a tying touchdown. Moreover, Rosenfels did not throw another touchdown pass the entire game. He was intercepted three times. Two of the interceptions were classic mistakes by an inexperienced quarterback and one of those was run back for a touchdown.

One player who figures to be back next year is return man Wes Welker who joined the Dolphins during the season and has performed well. He never looked better than he did on Sunday when he ran 95 yards for the first kickoff return touchdown by a Dolphin in 15 years. That return put the Dolphins back in the game. Welker, who had a strong collegiate career handling returns, looks like he can handle the job well at the NFL level, too.

Another player who looked good Sunday was Sammy Morris. Not only did he have a 35-yard touchdown run, but he also had 89 yards for the day against a Ravens defense that excels against the run (although Ray Lewis was missing from the lineup). He averaged 7.4 yards per carry for the day and, even if his 35-yard touchdown was excluded, he still had an impressive 4.9 yard average. Although he went into the game with a 3.6 yard average, this performance raised his season average to 4 yards per carry. Who knows what he can do next year behind an offensive line that Saban will doubtlessly try to upgrade.

In the pass receiving department, Chris Chambers will remain a leader next season as he was on Sunday. Not only did he catch the big pass to start the game, but he also had another 3 catches for a total of 146 yards with a 36.5 yard average per catch for the day (23.3 yards per catch even excluding the TD pass). Although Marty Booker was out Sunday, he had a good year and should fit into the plans for next season (a lot more so than injured and arrested David Boston). Derrius Thompson elevated his game as the season progressed and may yet turn into the receiver the Dolphins had hoped for when he was acquired. Then there is Randy McMichael, who tailed off towards the end of the season after being one of the few bright spots in the first half of the season when the Dolphins could do nothing but lose. Look for Saban to challenge him to elevate his game and tone down his mouth as well.

On the other hand, look for changes in the run-stuffers on the defensive line. Preventing one-hundred yard rushers has been a key to the defensive success of the Dolphins in the last several years, but they have failed to do so this year. Jamal Lewis ran for 167 yards on Sunday, which (along with Rosenfels’ three interceptions) was the difference in the game. It was the tenth game in which the opponent had a one-hundred yard rusher this season. Nose tackle is a position that Saban will seek to upgrade before camp opens in July.

As mentioned, there will be changes on the offensive line as well under Saban. The offensive line is the position where the Dolphins well need the most help because it is perhaps the greatest reason why the Dolphins finished at a horrendous 4-12 this season. The run blocking has been poor and the pass blocking has been . . . well, ask the team doctor for further information.

Another big question for Saban is going to be at quarterback. Does he stay the course with Feeley and Fiedler or does he cut bait on one (more probably Fiedler given Feeley’s youth and improvement over his last few games) and look to add another quarterback to compete for the starting job? If Saban cuts bait on Fiedler and he is unable to land a QB job elsewhere, perhaps Fiedler can land an assistant coaching job at Pitt under Wannstedt.

Here’s hoping that Nick Saban can have the success as Dolphins’ head coach that he has enjoyed at every other stop in his coaching career. Thanks to the Dolphins’ 4-12 record, he will have the second overall pick in the NFL draft. The problem is that this team has so many needs that he may not know where to turn first. Should he go with a quarterback (to replace Fiedler/Feeley), a running back (to replace Ricky), a linebacker (to replace Junior), a left tackle (to replace McIntosh), or a defensive tackle (to replace Tim Bowens)? And these aren’t this 4-12 team’s only needs.

In closing, it is a personal shame that in the year I have had the good fortune to become the Official Voice of the Dolfan, my beloved Dolphins have had their worst season in the 27 years I have been a season ticket holder. At the risk of upsetting my two fans at home, and as much as I have enjoyed writing my columns and winning the contest, I would have gladly given it all up for a Fins Super Bowl victory!

Oh well, maybe next year . . . .

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